The Executive Chairman of Boots, one of the UK’s biggest businesses, has said a victory for Ed Miliband in May would be a “catastrophe” for Britain.
Stefano Pessina slammed the Labour boss’s policies as “not helpful for business, not helpful for the country and in the end it probably won’t be helpful for them”, he told the Telegraph.
The party has been trying to win back its working class vote by focusing on tax rises for the rich and a ‘living wage’ but the pledges have prompted leading industry figures to call the party “anti-business”. These include campaigning against high levels of executive pay which would affect the quality of people British companies could recruit to lead large firms as well as describing capitalists as “predatory”.
The party has also promised to bring back the 50p top rate of income tax, pledge a “mansion tax” which in reality is just a way of taking more money from predominantly Conservative voters in the South East and London, and said energy prices should be frozen for the next 20 months, virtually ensuring a shortage.
Mr Pessina, whose company employs tens of thousands of people and is a household name, warned voters, “If they acted as they speak, it would be a catastrophe.”
Alliance Boots is one of the UK’s largest private sector companies, with 2,500 stores and 70,000 staff. Mr Pessina indicated that he felt he was unaware about the substance of the Labour leader, saying, “The problem is, would they act that way or not? One thing is to threaten and to shout, but it is completely different to be in charge and to manage the country day to day.” The 73 year old Italian declined to comment on any specific policies.
It is rate for someone of his status in the business world to be so outspoken to close to a general election – but feelings are running high. His intervention can only be seen as a searing blow to Ed Miliband only three months away from polling day and when polling data show him and Cameron’s Conservatives are neck and neck.
Mr Pessina’s words echo those spoken by Tony Blair who is said to have told MPs in private that voters will need business bosses to back the party’s policies if they are to be trusted on the economy. Significantly, Gordon Brown fought the last few weeks of the 2010 general election without the backing of any major business leaders.
And it is not just in private that the criticisms have been aired, with one of New Labour’s chief architects Lors Mandelson describing Mr Miliband’s mansion tax plan as “crude” and “short termist”.
Polls have also show the Labour duo of Miliband and Balls are far less trusted on the economy than Cameron and Osborne.
Labour has fought back at accusations that it is anti big business, explaining his “predatory” comments in 2011 as trying to improve the behaviour of the commercial sector in order to make the economy fairer. But such an explanation will have been viewed by many in the private sector as digging themselves in deeper: Mr Miliband’s complete lack of business experience, instead coming from a left wing privilege academic world would have simply highlighted the chasm that exists between senior Labour MPs and businesses.
Chancellor George Osborne seized on the comments, saying: “This is a clear warning from the head of one of Britain’s biggest employers about the economic catastrophe the UK would suffer if Ed Miliband’s policies were put into effect.
“The price of this catastrophe would be paid by families across the country who would see their jobs and incomes put at risk.”